Saturday, February 20, 2021

Yama Shrine


After leaving Fuki-ji temple, the oldest wooden building in Kyushu and a fairly major tourists site, I carried on up the narrow, mountain road upon which vehicular traffic had ceased passing me. On this, my first day embarked upon the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage I was following the Kunisaki Hanto Minemichi Long Trail which roughly followed the route of the ancient Kunisaki pilgrimage.

The road crossed over a ridge and dropped down into the next of the 28 valleys that radiate out from the centre of the peninsula. 28 "chapters" of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddhist text that the pilgrimage maps. I arrive at the entrance to Yama Shrine.... simply named Mountain Shrine.

Over the years, as I have wandered the back roads of rural Japan I have noticed that some regions have very few shrines, and other areas have huge number of shrines. Kunisaki is one of the latter. Yama Shrine is quite crude and ridimentary. No fancy carvings nor elaborate structures. More like a simple mountain hut.

Like many shrines in the region is does however have a pair of stone Nio, the Buddhist guardians that are often found at temples. In 1868 the government officially separated Buddhism and "shinto" and elements such as Nio were removed from shrines. Apparently, the memo never reached Kunisaki. It has sometimes been referred to The Land That Time Forgot, as like my own home region of Iwami, traditions were not so radically reinvented.

There are said to be more than 32,000 stone statues of various sizes throughout the peninsula, one for each kanji character that comprises the Lotus Sutra.

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